GBTA Calls for New Dialogue on Expanded Business Traveler Bill of Rights


Every year at GBTA Convention, I have the privilege of giving attendees an update on the advocacy issues affecting our great industry. Below you will find the speech I plan to deliver this afternoon.

As you may have seen, the sharing economy hit the campaign trail. Just a few weeks ago, some of the most prominent 2016 U.S. Presidential candidates publicly waded into the discussion about what role sharing economy companies will play in driving our economy. In a recent speech outlining her economic vision, Secretary Hillary Clinton praised the sharing economy for creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation. But she also said it is raising hard questions about workplace protections for contractors such as ride sharing drivers. Candidates like Governor Jeb Bush has frequently used social media to promote ride sharing to connect with voters.

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The sharing economy is seeing significant growth in the business travel marketplace. But the companies behind that growth and the candidates’ messages have failed to address a core requirement for buyers – DUTY OF CARE.

You can start with the terms and conditions for ride sharing services. To use the service in many markets, riders and their companies assume nearly all the risks. Now, we know that the vast majority of ride sharing trips are without incident. But to ensure responsible sharing, we need to identify and tackle issues that can arise. State and local regulators are shining a spotlight on critical insurance gaps. Coverage issues arise because drivers use personal cars for commercial activity, but often do not have commercial insurance, licensing or background checks.

The ride sharing companies are certainly aware of these issues, and we appreciate when responsible brands work to find constructive solutions. But, at times their strategy with state and local government can be best characterized as catc-me-if-you-can. Our chapters around the world have watched this approach result in conflict in their local markets.

We all know disruptive business models have the potential to transform industries. But sharing is not an excuse to operate in a regulatory vacuum.   A core mission of GBTA is to promote the safety and security of travel.  As an industry, we need to, and will, take sharing economy issues head-on.

But sharing is not the only issue that is making headlines. Aviation is another industry that’s always and forever in the spotlight.  As we heard this morning from Etihad and Southwest, new economies, markets, regulations and technologies are impacting aviation. Open Skies has become a flashpoint for global carriers and battles continue over pricing and distribution issues.

The business travel industry needs a healthy, profitable aviation sector.  And today, that’s what we have.  That is good news for business travelers.

As a result of a better outlook, the industry has stepped up its game with new planes and improvements to gates, Wi-Fi, menus and in-flight entertainment.

However, there will always be tension between buyers and suppliers and as a result GBTA policies will sometimes align with airlines on policy issues…and sometimes they will not. Earlier this year, we worked closely with airlines to defeat an attempt to double passenger facility taxes on your travelers. But we also recently announced our opposition to Lufthansa Group’s plans to add a ticket surcharge. GBTA views surcharges like these as a direct price increase to managed travel programs with no corresponding benefit.

With consolidated market power and broader global issues, GBTA will always ensure the interests of the buyer and their companies are well represented. Simply put, there must continue to be a mutually beneficial relationship between buyers, suppliers and travelers.

So, this year, we will begin a new dialogue with our members, committees and partners on an expanded business travel bill of rights. GBTA will be seeking input from you on matters ranging from transparency of fares to the availability of service to the pitch of seats. We strongly believe this is the most constructive path forward.

With profitability comes market responsibility. There always must be credence given to the companies that pay the bills and the employees that fly the miles.

And that leads us to TSA…

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As you know, TSA continues to face enormous challenges. Posing as passengers trying to beat the system, Homeland Security “Red Teams” were able to get banned items through checkpoints 67 out of 70 times. That is simply unacceptable.

Now, despite the headlines, there is hope for a more efficient, more effective risk based TSA operation. The recent confirmation of the former Coast Guard vice admiral Peter Neffenger as the new TSA Administrator is encouraging. Neffenger served as the incident commander for the 2010 BP oil spill, the largest and most complex cleanup in history.  He’ll need to draw down on everything he learned to be successful as he and Secretary Johnson take on the task of remaking TSA.

This is part of an overdue and critical effort to protect one of most important assets: a safe and secure aviation system.

I can’t leave here today without giving a special thanks to the GBTA Government Relations Committee and all of our activists who come our Legislative Symposium. Your continued hard work to advocate and protect the interests of GBTA members is critical. Let’s give them a big round of applause.

Thank you all for your support! Let’s have a great Convention!

 

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